UNCASVILLE, Conn. “Draft Day” It’s a dream come true for Natalie Achonwa.
The 6-foot-3 Notre Dame forward and once the youngest member of the Canadian Senior Women’s National team (2002) was drafted ninth overall by the Indiana Fever at the 2014 WNBA Draft capping off a glorious collegiate career with the Irish and starting a new chapter after she tore her ACL just minutes before the Irish clinched a spot in the 2014 Final Four and eventually coming short in the National Championship game to eventual national champions UCONN Huskies.
BLESSED to now be a member of the Indiana Fever!
The Canadian and first international player (foreign) in 37-year with the Irish she improved her play each year, and stamped her name across a number of the schools all-time records including becoming only the 29th player in the reach the 1000+ point club and earning her way to podium to shake the commissioner’s hand and, for a quick and well deserved moment forgetting about that ACL injury that ended her NCAA career.
“I actually planned it out exactly how I was going to get up, who I was going to hug first, but as soon I heard my name called I started tearing up and a literally just popped right up and I’m going to feel it in the morning because I forgot how to walk up the stairs, I was really excited.” Achonwa described the special moment backstage.
“The last couple of weeks I have literally hit every single emotion possible with the injury and then going to the Final Four, there was some much going on and it never really sat in until I was walking up the stage. I’m just really excited that Indiana took a change on me and drafted me injured.”
The selection marks the first time two Canadian female players have been selected in the first-round as Edmonton’s Michelle Plouffe was also drafted 19th overall by the Settle Storm becoming the first Edmonton based player ever to reach the WNBA.
It looks like the Canadian Invasion is also starting to hit the WNBA ranks. From Stacy Dales to Tammy Sutton-Brown to now Achonwa & Michelle Plouffe and the next ones in line. (Nirra Fields.)
Maybe we can get Drake to drop a few bars on about Achonwa and the Canadian takeover on his next web release. #DraftDay
Stacey Dales-Schuman is the highest Canadian drafted in the league’s history when the Washington Mystics selected here with the third-overall pick and Tammy Sutton, selected the 18th overall in 2001 is the only Canadian to be selected as a league All-Star. Kayla Alexander (Syracuse Orange) of Milton, Ontario was selected 8th overall in the 2013 draft.
The 2014 WNBA season tips on May 16.
Canadian Kia Nurse breaking WNBA ankles & records
It was evidently clear to me back in 2014 that Kia Nurse was way ahead of schedule. We featured Nurse in our “Got Next” section of BasketballBuzz Magazine — not only highlighting her journey, superb skills but also her respect for the game and opponents via her mantra of “respect all, fear none.”
A lot has changed since that feature, but what hasn’t changed is her attitude and most of all her incredible all-around game.
Now in her second season with the WNBA’s New York Liberty, Nurse is breaking records and ankles – surpassing all exceptions as she is set to become Canada’s latest and greatest Canadian WNBA all-Star.
Nurse is currently averaging 16 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. More importantly, she takes her game up a notch when the Liberty win – averaging 20 points , 4.0 assists , 2.3 steals for New York who sit 7W-8L.
Breaking Canadian WNBA Scoring Records
2019 WNBA-All-Star Game
NCAA March Madness Co-Host
Nurse has quickly become the face of women’s basketball in Canada and was featured across Canada during the 2019 NCAA March Madness coverage, providing in-depth analysis and commentary on her path to NCAA success and WNBA stardom.
Increase WNBA coverage across Canada
Up to now, it was nearly impossible to find a WNBA game across Canadian sports stations. So bad, has the coverage been, that it actually reminded me of the early Raptors days, where finding a basketball was like pulling teeth. With the increase of the popularity of basketball in Canada also comes an increase and demand for more content and the big media players are finally stepping-up and delivering a solid amount of WNBA coverage to satisfy more than the average basketball fans pallete.
2020 Toronto’s WNBA bid
Toronto has and will always be a world class city, blessed with every major sports league calling the six home, expect for a NFL team. The long awaited question, Why doesn’t Toronto have a WNBA franchise? appears to have been answered.
Now we can only wait for the day Nurse is playing for Toronto’s WNBA franchise or maybe running basketball operations.
Sister Act. Ogwumike Siblings Spark Hollywood Reunion In Los Angeles
It’s a family affair in Hollywood.
‘Mike check, 1…2, 1…2. Chiney Ogwumike has gone from the Connecticut Sun to a Californian one to reunite with Stanford sister Nneka.
And in an instant the Candace Parker Sparks have plugged themselves in to this year’s favourite to be the HIGHER. FURTHER. FASTER, ‘Captain Marvel’ of the WNBA.
The Sparks are now illuminated by this former scorching Sun star, her former MVP sister, Candace, Point Goddess Chelsea Gray and hot clutch shooter Alana Beard. And that’s just for starters, before we get to the splinters that will stick in you from the bolstered bench. Or their seventh seal in this year’s draft, the Baylor made star Kalani Brown.
Looks like Laker legend and new coach Derek Fisher-no stranger to the closing seconds of the game himself-has a lot to light up from his sideline fuse.
The Sparks gave up a first round draft pick from next year’s 2020 lottery to get this former number one pick in the 2014 pick of players and it was well worth every spot. Chiney is a star in her prime now, whilst her sister Nneka is a veteran legend. Combine the two of them together on the same squad like their Stanford college alumni days and you have a one, two punch like the Sparks had in the legendary Lisa Leslie days alongside Candace Parker. Except the Los Angeles Sparks still have Parker. One of the best players in the league right now and for all time, giving them an even better big-three and superteam then they’ve ever had in their purple and gold coronation.
This is beautiful for a game that is all about family. From the Grant one to the Lopez twin peaks. Even sons inheriting the skills of their father from Gary Payton II to Tim Hardaway Jnr. To what’s to come from Bol Bol, Shareef O’Neal (let’s make this special and get him drafted to pops Lake Show) and Bronny.
Oh yeah and the Ball boys.
But nothing is quite as special as these sisters doing it for themselves and each other on the Lakers sister squad that now stands as its own in STAPLES like the California clashing Clippers.
After becoming Rookie of the Year, Chiney suffered through knee and Achilles injuries whilst playing in China which stunted her seasons. But in the last one this low post threat, bullied back in the paint with a 14 point average and half of that in rebounds with seven. Expect those stats that would be the perfect compliment to Candace and big sis to only improve anyway. As will the perimeter presence of the likes of All Star point Gray and Beard trimming down those shots from downtown Pico.
Peek at your 2019 WNBA champions. Because the best of the best Skylar Diggings-Smith and Breanna Stewart will join the legendary likes of Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore missing the majority if not in most cases all the forthcoming season. Which is such a shame, even if there is so much more talent on display in this expect great league. But with Storm’s weathered in Seattle and Dallas Wings clipped, these Sparks with the Fish that saved L.A. in charge are showing like in the Michael Cooper days they are more than just a legendary name plugged into their head coaching seat.
The stand for one of the best leagues in the greatest game and it’s next generation starts now.
Watch them make way and lead the charge in their game, their way.
And worthy of a Hollywood story, but a real household one, these sisters are each other keepers.
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